I Want In : DBB Interview with Laurence Minsky [Part 2]

Spring is here! And for some of us, we’re coming out of hibernation. So, were back with the second installment of  I Want In, featuring the author and creative marketing professional Laurence Minsky.

DBB: Can I break in without going to portfolio school? 

LM : Yes.  I see it all of the time. If you have a great portfolio – one that provides a unique perspective and refined skills – and work at your search, then you will get a job. For a copywriter and art director (and soon on the account side), the quality of your portfolio is what will help you secure the interview, land the job, keep you employed once you get it, get you promoted, or get you a new job should something happen such as an agency merger or if you decide you are ready to move on. So if an entry-level applicant doesn’t have a competitive portfolio, the rest is moot.

DBB: Based upon your career in advertising, what are some key things that you feel will always remain relevant. 

LM: The most successful people in advertising are the ones who changed the industry to fit the times and themselves and not those who changed themselves to fit the industry.  Think of it this way:  What makes you unique is what will make one successful.  Of course there are lots other things to learn along the way, including such clichés as to be resilient.  You might hear this over and over again while you’re in school, but you really don’t learn how until you are faced with lots of rejection. Even the most successful people in the industry have encountered lots of rejection. I think this is the standard industry propaganda, so I am not adding much to the discussion here.  But I think it’s true.


DBB: What about your career as a copywriter and creative director?

LM: I got into marketing communications to bring many of my interests together.  I went to a liberal arts college, Lawrence University, and studied psychology.  I ran their radio station my junior and senior years – I was the program director and then general manager – and took a lot of creative writing courses.

The marketing communication industry seemed like one where I could continue to write creatively (and be paid for it), continue to use my psychology training (and keep developing my knowledge of it), and continue to explore the power of media (and experiment with it).  I found that my hunch was true and have continued with these interests today

LM:  How I broke into the industry is a different story – one that is probably not helpful for today’s entry-level job seeker because of the changes in expectations.

For the curious, however, my portfolio was not good (I was still working on assembling it). As part of an interview with an in-house agency at an educational publisher, I was given a writing test.  What I produced was good enough to get me hired, although I wouldn’t give it a passing grade today. It also probably also helped that I was working as stringer for a local newspaper and the person interviewing me saw some of my published articles.

I can’t imagine getting a job today with the portfolio I had back them.  Today, they’re much more polished.  However, I think that those breaking in today will say the same thing later in their careers.

DBB: What are some qualities in young talent that you see, that let’s you know they have what it takes to succeed in advertising? 

LM: I think I mentioned most of the qualities earlier in this interview – and you will find more in The Get A Job Workshop – but the one thing to add is the road in any creative-oriented career is rough.  I have hit many painful bumps along the way, so being resilient is key.  True resiliency is something I had to learn along the way.  The earlier you learn it, the better.  And, I think these books will help you learn it.

DBB: Let’s just say, I’m 35 and I want to become a copywriter or an art director.  Is age a factor if I’ll get hired as a creative professional?

LM : It depends on the hiring authority and that person’s openness. It is rare, but I have heard of people older than 35 who have landed entry-level creative jobs, especially if that person can bring a unique perspective to the job.  The person getting hired needs to fill a gap and one can learn a lot – especially in a certain technical areas as well as in life about human behavior – that he or she can bring to the job.  These are insights that someone 21 might not be able to offer.

If you’ve read Hey Whipple, Squeeze This by Louis Sullivan, you should definitely consider adding out these books to your “I Love Advertising” section of your personal library. Purchase How to Succeed In Advertising When All You Have Is Talent and The Get A Job Workshop by Laurence Minsky today, available on Amazon, Kindle, and iTunes.  

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Have any questions of your own? Feel free to ask in our comment section. Don’t be scared to because we will respond with an answer. Really, what is there to lose?  Let passion drive you.


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